Study Suggests Teens Learn by Example - Even a Bad Example - Sparrow Law Firm

Parents may tell you that their teenagers either pay no attention to them or do exactly the opposite of what the parents ask them to do. If the results of a recent study are any indication, though, teens may be paying more attention than parents think. Unfortunately, they are paying attention to — and mimicking — their parents’ drinking and driving behaviors.

In truth, the researchers did not establish whose behavior the teens were influenced by, so it could well be that other teens were the negative role models. But the researchers did conclude that teens who rode with someone driving while intoxicated were more likely themselves to drive drunk.

The study followed the 2,500 participants from the end of 10th grade to 12th grade and graduation. At the end of each school year, the students completed a questionnaire about whether and how often they had been a passenger in a vehicle with an impaired driver. At the end of 12th grade, the researchers also asked about the teens’ time behind the wheel.

The results showed that teens were more likely to drive drunk if they had been a passenger in a car driven by someone under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Tenth-graders who had ridden with drunk drivers were “many times more likely” to drive drunk or drugged in 12th grade. Students who reported in all three surveys  — in 10th, 11th and 12th grades — that they had been in cars with an impaired driver were 120 times more likely to drive drunk

The researchers also found that the participants who got their driver’s licenses in 10th or 11th grade were more likely to report driving while intoxicated than teens who didn’t get their licenses until 12th grade. It may be, the researchers said, that the younger drivers are risk-takers.

The study reinforces the findings of earlier research. Teens learn by example, so it is important for parents to model good driving habits and to enforce strict rules about riding with drivers who have been drinking.

Source: USA Today, “Riding with impaired drivers increases teens’ DWI risks,” Michelle Healy, March 17, 2014